“Irritation is a destructive energy. We cannot destroy the energy; we can only convert it into a more constructive energy. Forgiveness is a constructive energy. Understanding is a constructive energy.
Suppose you are in the desert, and you only have one glass of muddy water. You have to transform the muddy water into clear water to drink, you cannot just throw it away. So you let it settle for a while, and clear water will appear.”
Thích Nhât Hanh, Being Peace
What does all THAT mean?
Like it’s so simple to do.
Yet it often doesn’t go that way, despite my best efforts.
Hahn’s book Being Peace is helping me to understand those phrases a little better…
He is helping me clear the muddy water in my glass!
To “be” means to be aware that you “are” something and that this “something” is whatever is going on inside us. We are constantly experiencing what we are…but if Peace is not at the root, we often try to ignore it, force it away, chase it or run from it. So it’s like living a lie.
Whenever Peace is absent, we must acknowledge its absence and then become aware of what IS present within us…allowing the latter to settle down and then away.
In the quote above, Hahn uses “irritation” as one example of how we might “be” right now, in this moment.
Someone just cut me off on the highway.
My child just back-talked to me.
I sent a message to someone and they haven’t responded yet. I need that answer now!!
I just forgot to make an important phone call, causing problems for others who depended on me.
I just spoke/acted without thinking and now have a rift in a relationship to repair.
In these cases, I am not just feeling irritation. According to Hahn (earlier in this chapter on Feelings and Perceptions), I AM Irritation!
But…as soon as I can notice that I AM experiencing something destructive (not Peace), I am immediately empowered to change it by replacing it with something more constructive, like forgiveness or understanding…compassion or love.
Noticing gives us immediate power…
While releasing all that is destructive.
This miracle will occur at the exact point I elect to STOP shaking the “dirty water” of destructive feelings/reactions and instead, choose to carefully place the glass on a level surface, pausing to watch as clarity replaces chaos.
The very moment we become aware, we realize we “are” whatever is happening within us (our thoughts, feelings) and we can see that we are NOT our feelings or thoughts. They are just passing by…and ever changing.
(Just wait a few moments: something else will be along to replace the current “muddiness” that we are feeling or thinking.)
This moment of acknowledgement begins unlocking us from the entrapment we are fighting, allowing ourselves simply to “be” in that moment unencumbered.
We know we’re “getting it” when our familiar “judgement voice” is absent (or at least fading more and more!)
We are not hearing (or rather “listening to”) thoughts like:
“You are a failure.”
“You won’t make it.”
“That was idiotic.”
“You’re not enough.”
Only from the perspective of self-love can I begin to find peace…as I let things settle “as they are”.
I can feel anything.
But I am not the feelings.
I can think anything.
But I am not the thoughts.
So this analogy of the dirty water being allowed to settle, resulting ultimately in clearer water above, with undesirable components below, shows us how to access Peace.
First, it is a process, not a “quick fix”.
Second, it is a journey, with many destinations as we learn our way.
Third, it will always take the time that I allow for settling to occur: so impatience would not be a great choice!
Fourth, if I fight it, it will become muddled again and I’ll need to reset.
But finally: Resisting and the “muddling” that follows is okay…IF we keep remembering to be still long enough to allow settling to begin again.
My anger (or anxiety or grief or whatever I am “being” right now) may sidetrack or blindside me repeatedly, but I must not berate myself for getting sucked into it. That is destructive.
What is important is that I eventually come around again to awareness…starting that settling process again. This is constructive.
We may have to do this many, many times…
Because…we humans ARE very adept at shaking our glass…
And not so experienced at being still long enough to leave the glass alone a few moments.
But that’s what Practice is…
Returning to the beginning.
Being kind to ourselves and therefore to others…
Practice ~ not Perfect ~ is the goal.
How else could we gain Wisdom?
Experience is a Teacher.
Falling short is a Teacher.
Getting up again and again…is a Teacher.
And as we Practice, our very life slowly, miraculously BECOMES the Teacher…
And ultimately for all who may cross our path.
Tao Te Ching (#15) inquires:
“Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?
Who can remain still until the moment of action?”
Notice how you are “Being” right now.
If Peace is not there…
Then Mud is!
But no worries…
The Teacher IS there.
Be still long enough to allow just a glimmer of awareness ~ of what is going on within you ~ to begin.
Notice what “clay, sand or dust” may be “muddying the waters” of your spirit.
Now see those clods of clay, grains of sand, the powdery dust in your glass begin to drift slowly to the bottom.
See the water beginning to clear.
This is letting go.
This is how “Being Peace” begins.
We begin to see clearly enough to allow the unnecessary and detrimental elements to fall away…
To fall away some more…
Until our True Self is all that remains.